I feel bad for kids today. When it comes to the question of “who lived it better,” they just can’t win.
Adults love to reminisce. They love to remember how great life was in “their day.” And if it wasn’t great, it was still great because it taught them something, made them tough, built character that the spoiled youth of 2014 will never, ever possess. In the quest for an ideal summer experience, I’ve encountered countless 40 something friends who are adamant that our generation knew how to do summer the way summer was meant to be done.
Whatever that means.
Yes, my childhood summers were fabulous. The days were long and sunny and filled with free play. We arrived at the swim club early and I fended for myself until the place closed. Longer, actually, because my parents worked the joint. I made my own fun, created my own games, filled my own hours.
But I also got in trouble a lot and had to sit in a chair under the pine trees while people stared and I also lived on a diet of cheeseburgers, soda and sugar babies. There were “butt cans” under every giant umbrella because everyone smoked and those lovely toxins really hung in the humid, heavy air. I was perpetually sunburned, itchy and uncomfortable, even with a more intact ozone.
My kids are camp-bound this summer and I make no apologies, for me as their schedule coordinator or for them because they like it. Their days are filled with sports, pool time and real food. They learn card tricks, they tease boy counselors and they act silly with their silly friends. They have never in their life heard of a butt can.
When they aren’t at camp, my kids catch fireflies. Even Bea, who was taught how to carefully cradle the firefly and not swat, smack or squash the firefly. Love the firefly, then let it go. She’s improving! They run through the sprinkler that’s been watering our new sod. They now know that grass blades really stick. In all kinds of places.
Without a doubt, my kids are enjoying a summer just as awesome as my childhood summers but with the addition of SPF awareness. It’s okay to reminisce, but let’s not shame our kids into thinking that there’s something inadequate about their experience. They can’t take a time machine to the free-wheelin’ 70’s. And why would they want to given the lack of wifi?
If there’s anyone to feel sorry for, it’s Francie Nolan. I’m reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn because my mother-in-law just finished it for the 50th time and I thought I should finish it once. The Williamsburg section of Brooklyn during the summer of 1912 is a lot more miserable than country club tennis camp. For sure. Though Francie gets by, just like I did under the punishment pines.
Lu at camp last week. Upside down and underwater. Don’t burst her summer bubble!